My pastor said this in a sermon a while back. He was referring to coming to Christ for the first time, but I heard it differently. It stuck. It’s been rolling around in my head for months now. If I could “believe now,” then I could make a Godly choice in every moment. You see, my failures and bad decisions are usually based upon some sort of unbelief.
I don’t believe He will provide for us, so I choose to worry about our financial situation.
I don’t believe that my body is a “temple for the Holy Spirit” (I Cor 6:19-20) or that God really cares about my health. I tell myself, “It’s not that big of a deal”, so I eat more than I should.
I don’t really believe sin kills, so I speak rudely to my family and my wife.
I could go on and on. . . . but you get the point. If I could “Believe Now!” I’d probably make better choices. I’d probably represent Jesus better and become more like Him. If I could “believe now,” I’d probably say “Yes” to different things and I’d be involved in new things. I’d probably say “No” to some other things as well.
Prayer:LORD, help me to “Believe now.” Keep this phrase in my mind. Train me to remember it in the moments that I struggle. Guide my heart to believe constantly, moment by moment. LORD I believe, but I want to believe more often, more consistently. “LORD I believe. Help my unbelief!” – Mk 9:24 AMEN.
It’s been more than 30yrs, but I still remember one tackle. I was in elementary school and my parents were moving me from the YMCA football league to the City league. These kids were older and bigger. I was a little scared, but also knew that I was good. (Well, I thought I was.) It was my first day of practice and in spite of my nerves, I had something to prove. They put me in as a Defensive End and told me that my job was to make sure the ball didn’t get outside of me.
The quarterback got the ball and started running my way. I recognized it as the “Option” and saw him pitch to the running back. With 3 blockers coming right toward me, I could make out one leg on the runner. My heightened awareness caused everything to go into slow mo. I could see one tiny hole to thread the needle of defenders and I went straight to it. This wasn’t just a tackle during practice. I was earning my place on the team. It was important. I got him and more importantly, it caught the attention of my new coach.
I wonder if this is what we are all longing for? Singular purpose. Focus.Heightened awareness. A higher purpose for the mundane things we do each day. There were no distractions for me that day – well, not in that moment. Nothing could have taken me away from that moment. I was passionately pursuing that tackle and wouldn’t have noticed if a two-headed purple alligator had crawled onto the field.
Is there something that makes you get lost in the moment? Anything that stirs your passions so much that nothing distracts you?
The older I get, I must admit that the number of things that distract me has probably increased. My children command my attention and my bride deserves it, but I’m certainly guilty of not “hearing” them. When I’m with them, I find myself thinking about work or other things. When I’m at work, my mind is at home. I wonder how life would be different if I could truly just “be” wherever I actually am? Could I develop the kind of focus that allowed me to make that tackle in my regular, everyday activities? Somehow, I think Jesus may have been this way – completely present in every moment. The people He was with always seemed to think He was completely in tune with them. He always “heard” them. I wanna be like Jesus. Present. Focused. Passionate. Attentive. Loving.
It was an intimate moment. Miranda cupped her hand and leaned in to the ear of our 2yr old son, Kasen. She spoke gently, “Kasen, I have a secret.” He watched her intently. Drawing it out and emphasizing each word, she said, “I. . . love. . . you!” Kasen pushed in close to her saying, “Mommy, I have a secret.” Miranda anticipated the approaching moment and heightened her sense of awareness. She wanted to remember every detail of this one. With the same slow emphasizing pace, Kasen said, “I. . .want. . .candy!”
Ha! Ha! I think it’s hilarious and just had to share it with everyone.
I was sitting in a meeting the other day when this thought struck me. I’m normally a pretty shallow thinker, but for some reason this particular moment was different. This thought is actually worthy of receiving “quotes,” so I present it here with them and a citation of my own name at the end. It makes me (normally a dumb guy), feel like I have something worth saying.
“Hidden within the mundane, we encounter the extraordinary.”
Life is found in the desert. Jesus came to the earth. And the extraordinary is within the mundane.
Knowing that God has promised, “I am with you always” (Mt 28:20), how could we dare to consider one moment more sacred than another? Aren’t they all lived out in His presence? Aren’t they all opportunities to honor Him and worship Him with the decisions we make and the activities we involve ourselves in?
In ancient culture, all of life was considered sacred. Even the mundane, was sacred. The word “profane,” came about to describe when someone took the sacred and treated it with irreverence. In many ways, the ancient idea that all of life is sacred has done a 180. Today, most people live as if the only sacred moment they have happens during the one hour of church they attend each week – with a few notable exceptions for weddings, funerals, and holiday services.
Anyway, I think this quote applies to life in so many ways. For example:
Maybe I’m a heretic, but I believe that when the family is together to celebrate Christmas (or any other holiday), it is a sacred moment – God is no more present in the worship service which seeks to celebrate the same holiday, than he is around the dinner table in your home. “Within the mundane, we encounter the extraordinary.”
I’ve heard many people complain about these social networks saying that they don’t care to know every detail of everyone’s life. “It’s just too much noise,” they say. But I feel very differently. Leonard Sweet refers to these networks as a “global commons.” I’ve also heard it described as the modern “water cooler.” Yes, it’s true that some “tweets” seem insignificant, but that doesn’t mean they’re of no value. These short updates reveal our lives to one another. “Within the mundane, we encounter the extraordinary.” Many times when I run into people (face to face), they refer to something I tweeted and begin a conversation. Prior to these networks, these moments were awkward. People didn’t know what to say (or know what we had in common). Within these mundane updates, I have encountered God and He has used them to impact my life. 140 characters or less is enough to encourage, express love and concern, pray, teach, rebuke, correct, train in righteousness, etc. These updates are “extraordinarily mundane.”
In my 20 years of ministry experience, I have often said, “We want to spend ‘quantity’ time together so that we can experience ‘quality’ moments.” The real ministry moments can’t be scheduled. In general, you can’t plan for them, orchestrate them, or manipulate an environment enough to create a real ministry moment. They just happened whenever God grabs a person. Since our lives are filled with the mundane (which is still a sacred moment), these times usually happened while you’re driving down the road together, or sitting at a fast food table, or when someone seeks you out and drives over to your house while you’re doing the laundry. “Within the mundane, we encounter the extraordinary.”
Anyway, these were just some thoughts than ran through my head today.
Over Christmas I noticed something. Now that Kasen has learned to walk, we enjoy going out together to explore the world. I have to walk at a pretty slow pace so he can keep up, but it’s a lot of fun. Anyway, I noticed that when we walk together, I’m always looking up at the horizon – where we’re headed, but Kasen looks at the ground and the surrounding area. He’s worried about stepping over over rocks and picking up sticks, while my concerns are more about our direction and future. It’s important for me to look out for his safety and watch for cars coming over the horizon, but I wonder what I’m missing?
In the same way, if we live our lives always looking for the future – always concerned about being able to make the right corrections so we can be “safe”, we’re never fully present in the moment and will never be able to experience life to the “full” as Jesus talks about in John 10:10. By the way, we don’t have to stress about our safety/future if we’re in His hands.
Anyway, just some thoughts today.
Another example of Kasen being fully present in the moment and relishing life happened in the car on the drive home from Ft Worth. We stopped and got ice cream at Dairy Queen. Each time Miranda fed him a bite, he’d let it melt in his mouth and then laugh and clap for it’s taste. It’s as if he was encouraging God with a standing ovation saying, “Yeah God! You did a good job on this one! Do it again!”
Do I celebrate and thank God for the small things? Is the taste of ice cream really a “small thing” or is it truly another expression of God’s love for us?
When I came home last night, Kasen was asleep on the floor of the living room. I put away my things, emptied my pockets, and then went to sit on the couch to talk to Miranda. As soon as I settled into my spot, Kasen stirred a bit and opened his eyes. Half asleep, he stood up and stumbled across the floor to me. And then raising his hands, he grunted a sound that I understood. I picked him up and he fell asleep again on my chest.
I stayed there and held him. I prayed over him and tried to savor the moment – thinking, “I want to be able to recall this moment when he’s 16 and yelling about how much he hates me.” I thought about how it felt to have him wanting to be in my arms. I felt for his heartbeat and listened to the way he was breathing. I took a mental photograph of his sleepy eyes when he realized that I had come home and I filmed his stumbling walk across the floor.
I love my boy and I loved that experience yesterday.
I know he won’t always want me so close, but I’m already realizing how difficult it will be to allow him to grow up. I’m praying that my mental photography and videography will help me make it through the tough times that are lurking in our future.
Take some mental photographs today of the people you love.
Tears soothe the eyes. They moisturize the dryness. They soothe. It’s a mystery to me how this works, ’cause it goes way beyond soothing just our eyes. Tears soothe our hearts. They remind us we’re alive. Tears affect our hearts, but they also express them. The greatest moments of our lives, both good and bad, are usually accompanied by tears.
This past week (Skiing in New Mexico) was the first time I left Kasen and Miranda for any real length of time. I didn’t really imagine how difficult it would be, but as the day approached, I could feel these emotions welling up inside
me. I had worked all day getting ready for the trip. I loaded the church vans with the youth that night and then went back home to finish my personal packing. I had hoped to finish early so I could just cuddle with Miranda bit and play with Kasen, but they were both in bed before I was anywhere close to being ready. Then I realized, I couldn’t find my wallet. I searched everywhere. . . . Nothing. . . .what could I have done with it? Where could it be? Oh wait. . .maybe I left it in the church van when I went to gas it up. I left the house to look ’cause I knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep without knowing. I found it in the van. My mind raced back and forth over all the things I had to do to get ready as I drove home. “I think I’m finally ready.” I thought as a unlocked the door to the house. I wasn’t all the way in the door and I could hear Kasen crying in his crib. “Yes!” I thought – maybe I’m demented for being happy he was upset, but that meant that I could go and comfort him. I picked him up gently and held him close as I snuggled into the rocking chair. I whispered to him and prayed over him as I rocked. It was such a tender amazing moment. I didn’t really expect it, but I cried. I did the same a few moments later as I laid down to bed next to Miranda and prayed over her as she slept.
It’s amazing to think about now. My son was actually comforted by my voice and touch. What an honor and privilege it is to be given that kind of influence and trust. I wonder now – was he more comforted by me? or was I more comforted by his total dependence and trust?
On Maundy Thursday, we did a small service and remembered the events of the last supper. As I told the story to our students, I cried again. Jesus loves us wholeheartedly. That night He had an intimate moment with His closest friends, and He gave Himself completely to them. Just as I had done with Kasen, I remembered how He had whispered to them and prayed over them. I was comforted by him. Was He comforted by my dependence and trust?
Tears reveal our hearts and soothe our hearts. If tears accompany the greatest moments of our lives, then our tears also reveal our values. What we cry about, is what’s important to us. I think I can live with that – ’cause that means that Jesus is important to me and that Miranda and Kasen are important to me.
I don’t know what it was, but something about this song made me start crying in the car the other day. I was looking for songs I could learn to play and sing with Kasen and thought about “Sweet Baby James.” After listening to it, this one came on.
Anyway, God has been showing me how to live in the present lately and truly be in the moment. Maybe it has something to do with watching Kasen’s emotions jump from total contentment to crying out hysterically, and back to laughing all in a matter of about 30 seconds. I mean – how does that work? He is totally present in the moment and everything he experiences is right there on his face. Someone once told me that if I was feeling happy, I should notify my face and put on a smile. That’s not a problem for Kasen though – he’s totally transparent. Why is it that we as adults have learned to hide it all? Everything about our lives seems to be about “playing the part” or “fitting in” and so we put on these “poker faces” that hide our true feelings. How would life be different if we decided to be vulnerable? What if I lived completely in the present – truly experiencing and feeling everything completely? Did Jesus live this way or was He worried about His reputation so much that He hid His true feelings?
Anyway, this song makes me think about enjoying every moment. Experiencing everything life has for us. Enjoying the present without regard to the past or future. Of course James Taylor didn’t mean it in a spiritual way, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t hit on the truth.
Secret O’ Life by James Taylor
The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time
Any fool can do it
There ain’t nothing to it
Nobody knows how we got to
The top of the hill (except those who believe in God)
But since we’re on our way down
We might as well enjoy the ride
The secret of love is in opening up your heart
It’s okay to feel afraid
But don’t let that stand in your way no
‘Cause anyone knows that love is the only road
And since we’re only here for a while yeah
Might as well show some style
Give us a smile now
Isn’t it a lovely ride
And gliding down
Try not to try too hard
It’s just a lovely ride
Now the thing about time is that time
Isn’t really real
It’s all on your point of view
How does it feel for you
Einstein said that he could never understand it all
Planets spinning through space
The smile upon your face
Welcome to the human race
Isn’t that a lovely ride
Try not to try too hard
It’s just a lovely ride
Isn’t that a lovely ride
Oh mama yes
See me sliding down
And gliding down
Try not to try too hard
It’s just a lovely ride
Now the secret of life is enjoying the passage of time
My nephew Tyler was a little shy about his relationship with me and so he did something interesting one night. We were riding in the back of the car from an evening out to dinner or something and he pretended to be asleep. You see, he understood that if he were asleep when we got to his house, that I would carry him in and tuck him into bed. Out of the corner of my eye, I had seen him watching me, so I knew he was awake. I loved the fact that he wanted that moment with me enough to pretend to be asleep.
I wonder if Jesus felt that way with Nicodemas in John 3? Nick was embarrassed or scared for anyone to know he wanted a relationship with Jesus so he came to Him at night. Do you think Jesus felt the same way I did when Tyler pretended to be asleep to so he could have a special little stolen moment with me? I wonder what I could do today that would make Jesus feel that way again?
This past weekend we went on a retreat to Camp Tejas. We called it our “Risk” retreat and focused on what it means to take a step of faith and risk moving out of the normal and into the supernatural. Anyway, I just thought I’d share one of the best moments for me. It was Saturday afternoon and we had a guy named Rodgers speaking to us about his life in Kenya. He made a reference to a story in the book of John (Chapter 5) about the guy who had been trying to be healed for 38 years. He asked if anyone knew the story and I could see the lights going on for Zach, one of our younger guys – he knew the story! He knew it really well ’cause we had studied it in Bible Study earlier this year. Anyway, in that split second of watching him remember the story and the excitement on his face – I knew that my work was worth all the heartache that it causes me. This guy knew the Bible because of something that I had been a part of – thank you God for reminding me that my struggles are worth it. Any “risk” I take for you is no “risk” at all – ’cause you’ve got my back!